Call Gordon Freeman! Apple to build $2bn 'data command center' – BLACK MESA?

Upon the ruins of GT Advanced saphire glass plant in Arizona

Arizona state and local government officials were beaming on Monday over news that Apple has decided to locate its latest "global data command center" in the state.

"It's one of the largest investments ever in Apple history," Arizona governor Doug Ducey said of the $2bn project in a press conference on Monday. "It means a 1.3 million square foot facility in Mesa, Arizona."

The governor stressed that inking the deal with Cupertino had been a "team effort" between his office, state legislators, and local officials, all of whom had worked to ensure that the transaction closed swiftly.

"We are excited for this to be the anchor of our Elliot Road high tech corridor," said John Giles, mayor of the city of Mesa, adding that the area is ripe with abundant cheap power, water, and fiber network connectivity.

The Apple effort is expected to create 150 permanent jobs and between 300 and 500 construction jobs during its multi-year build-out phase.

Not that Apple will need to start from scratch; the actual buildings that will house its new data center already exist.

They are none other than the facilities formerly operated by GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), the materials firm that until recently had been contracted to produce scratch- and shatter-proof sapphire glass for Apple iThings.

GTAT was forced to file for bankruptcy in October after its partnership with Apple went south, allegedly because it was unable to produce sufficient amounts of sapphire glass that met Cupertino's stringent expectations.

Although the firm hopes to stay in business, it said at the time that its restructuring would include winding down its Mesa operations and selling off the sapphire furnaces it had installed there.

Proceeds from the sales would go to paying off GTAT's debts to Apple, which loaned the company some $350m to build the sapphire plant.

GTAT's decision to pull out of Arizona also meant laying off approximately 890 people – 37 per cent more than the maximum number of jobs Apple said it would create to build and operate its new data center at the Mesa site, which is not to be confused with shadowy research lab Black Mesa. That's the the underground facility crowbar-swinging physicist Gordon Freeman escapes from in Half-Life.

When asked during Monday's press conference what incentives, tax or otherwise, had been offered to Apple to operate in Arizona, Governor Ducey dodged the question entirely, saying only that Cupertino's multibillion-dollar investment was a boon to the state. ®

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